Don't go broke sending your kids back to school

According to a National Retail Federation survey, the average family intends to spend about $527 this year for back-to-school supplies.

&#8220Back-to-school season is an exciting time for students and parents, but it can also be a time when costs for new clothes and school supplies add up,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell. &#8220There are ways to give your children the supplies they need without emptying your bank account. Getting ready for back-to-school season can also provide an opportunity to teach your children about smart budgeting strategies.”

O'Connell's top 10 tips for back-to-school shopping are:

1. Involve your children in taking inventory and making a list of what they already have and what school supplies they need. Prioritize the list in order of the items most needed, then draw up a budget.

2. Read through the newspapers advertisements with your children and seek out sales for back-to-school clothes and supplies. Also, check online at office supply and clothes retailers for deals, then do comparison shopping for the best prices.

3. When buying clothes for younger, growing children, resist buying fad clothing that can be more expensive. Make sure the clothes you want to buy are allowed by the school’s dress code. Consider buying basic, durable, and adjustable clothing that can stretch your dollars significantly.

Allow the children to try on the clothes, so they get used to dressing themselves. This will give you more time to yourself in the morning rush when school starts.

4. When buying school supplies, consider shopping online or going to lower-priced outlets and office supply stores. Your children might want those colorful notebooks with logos and their favorite heroes. But the plain notebooks may actually have more paper and can be less expensive. While shopping with your children, compare prices, count the number of items, and add up the bill. This will acquaint them with using math in their daily lives.

5. Students often prefer to use messenger bags to carry their books, but this causes the weight of the bag to fall on one shoulder that can lead to neck and back pain. Consider a two-strapped backpack that distributes the weight more evenly over the body. Resist buying bags with fad logos that can add to the price of the bag.

6. Using gently worn hand-me-downs can save a lot of money. Or consider shopping at garage or yard sales for things like a vintage lunchbox or a nearly new calculator that could cost 50% to 90% less than retail.

7. Children love to wear inexpensive flip-flops, but this is a time when you may need to spend more for your children's shoes for the sake of safety and proper foot development. Growing children’s feet change rapidly, so buy shoes that are immediately comfortable on your children's feet. Select shoes with a stiff heel, flexible toe, and rigid in the middle that does not twist.

8. If your children need a computer, consider shopping at an outlet store where you can purchase a refurbished model. That can save you 50 to 60% from the retail price. If you are considering other high tech tools, know your school's rules first. Some cell phones, iPods, and MP3 players are banned from schools.

9. If your children insist on buying more expensive items, suggest they put part of their allowance or paycheck toward the purchase, or let your children know you could eliminate a lower priority item from their list. This will teach them the value of a dollar and budgeting. This may also cause children to lose interest in the item and forget how important it once seemed.

10. If you don't need to buy supplies now, wait. School supplies are usually cheaper or on clearance by mid-September. Above all, stay within your budget. Using a credit card is good only if you know when and how you will pay them off. Otherwise, the interest rates and fees may cancel out any savings you made from finding sales and bargains.

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